Our very own Tarantula Pants has started a campaign to change Red Cross policy regarding pets in the event of a disaster such as Hurricane Katrina (alas, Hurricane Silky Boots doesn't quite rate as a tragedy.) I urge you to fill out and send the letter below!
Hi all -
I have written a letter asking the Red Cross to consider altering their policy regarding pets in shelters and evacuation transportation, and I am asking you to help this grass roots campaign. Look up your local chapter at the link below, and sent either an e-mail or a hard copy of this letter to the director of a local chapter. and/or to Marsha J. Evans is President and CEO, American Red Cross National Headquarters, 2025 E Street, NW, Washington, DC 20006. If preferable, consider writing your chapter simply saying "please find a way to allow pets to be sheltered during natural disasters so that people will not have to choose between their own safety and that of their pets." Thanks!
Dear [insert director's name of your local American Red Cross chapter
City, State, Zip]
Re: The Snowball Effect
I'm hoping that the American Red Cross will consider updating the policy regarding animals in shelters and evacuation transportation. Many Americans watching the televised coverage of Hurricane Katrina were upset to see that young boy on a shelter-bound bus separated from his dog, Snowball. Knowing that scenario was multiplied thousands of times over makes me wonder what we can do to improve it.
More and more Americans are willing to risk their lives to assure the safety of their pets. As pets are not usually welcome at shelters, many people choose to remain with their pets. Unfortunately, their refusal to leave without pets snowballs into more problems, increasing the workload of the S&R and healthcare personnel and causing preventable deaths.
Given the attachment Americans have for their pets, I hope you will reconsider your policy about animals and allow pets on evacuee transportation and in some shelters. Perhaps people and pets could be rescued together, and then the animals taken to the local animal rescue effort or shelter. Red Cross and FEMA personnel could be trained to deal with sheltering animals as part of their regular training.
I understand that the original policy is based on factors such as allergies, potential bites, and fear of animals. People who don't want to be near animals shouldn't have to be, but people whose pets mean everything to them should not have their pets taken away. I am not suggesting animals be in all shelters, but if some shelters allowed pets, or a portion of each shelter, it would speed up the rescue process by eliminating the lengthy discussions rescuers have with people who refuse to be rescued without their pets. If separated, they may not be reunited. For people who have lost absolutely everything, their pet may be the only comfort they have left.
In Milwaukee, bus loads of people displaced from Katrina were allowed to bring their pets and were housed together at the State Fair grounds. In Florida the shelters that accept pets filled up first. A volunteer for Emergency Response in Britain says one of their first plans of action is to make sure that pets are kept with their owners.
I am so grateful that you offer this type of assistance, but please understand that I would no sooner leave my pets behind than I would a child. Surely we can work to find a way to accommodate the needs of all evacuees.